PEPPERELL – The annual Memorial Day parade has been saved thanks to a generous donation from 1A Auto.
The auto company, which is based in Pepperell, announced last month a donation of $5,000 to the Pepperell VFW Post 3291, which organizes the annual event.
Rick Green, CEO of 1A Auto, said he was contacted recently by Kim Buckingham, quartermaster of the post, letting him know that the town would not fund the annual parade as it normally has.
“Rick immediately asked how much, I said $5,000 dollars and he quickly replied, ‘yes,’” Buckingham said in a press release. “We are fortunate to have a company like 1A Auto and people like Rick we can count on.”
David Walsh III, senior vice commander of the post, said the only other time the parade wasn’t funded by the town was in 2008 due to the global financial crisis, though the local police helped back that parade. Walsh said that the town usually reimburses the VFW for its expenses related to the parade.
As for this year, Walsh claimed that the town told the VFW last year it couldn’t reimburse the post unless it authorized a Proposition 2 1/2 override of the town’s 2020 budget. Walsh said that when that override was authorized last May, the town didn’t follow-up with the post about being able to cover the parade expenses.
“We’ve had issues with the upper management of the town lately, so we haven’t really been trying to talk to them as much as we want to,” Walsh added. “We didn’t know where we were going to get the money for the parade.”
Town Administrator Andrew MacLean said on Monday that the budget line for the Memorial Day parade was one of many to be cut last year to reduce the town budget. MacLean said that although the $1.4 million override was approved, the restoration budget going with that override did not include money for the parade.
“The money was cut from the budget because we couldn’t afford it,” MacLean explained. “There was a debate between funding critical town services and things that would be nice to have but that the town doesn’t want to fund with the town budget.”
MacLean added that the approved restoration budget for 2020 fiscal year was posted on the town website for the VFW post and the rest of the public to see. He also said that the draft budget for the 2021 fiscal year doesn’t include money for the parade.
Green, whose father and grandfathers were all veterans, recalled times when his family would drive his father’s convertible Pontiac GTO in the parade when he was younger and seeing how large the local turnout would be.
“It’s a big deal for the town,” he said. “I’ve been going to the parade for 20 to 30 years and I know how much people in the town enjoy it. It’s a very nice remembrance and is very well done. I know the veterans appreciate it and it’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.”